The Gospel Observer

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations...teaching them to observe all that I commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:19,20).
October 16, 2011


1) The Parable of the Seed and the Sower (Tom Edwards)
2) News & Notes


The Parable of the Seed and the Sower
by Tom Edwards

Jesus' parable of "The Seed and the Sower" is seen in the accounts of Matthew, Mark, and Luke.  According to Matthew 13:1,2, the Lord declared this parable from a boat in the Sea of Galilee.  The accounts of Matthew and Mark show that Jesus began teaching by the sea, where He had been sitting; but then, because of the very large crowd that had gathered about Him, He boarded a boat on the sea from which to address the multitude (Mark 4:1,2).  From there, His voice would probably be well carried over the surface of the water to this large group of listeners, whom Matthew says were all "standing on the beach" (Matt. 13:2).  So it was a location with good, natural acoustics to be addressing this multitude.  

Concerning this enormous group that had gathered on this occasion to hear the Lord,  Luke adds a little more to the picture.  He shows that it was not only "a large crowd" that was coming to hear Him, but also that there were "...those from the various cities" who "were journeying to Him..." (Luke 8:4).  

The "Sea of Galilee" (Matt. 4:18) is also known in the Bible as the "Sea of Tiberias," (John 21:1), "the sea of Chinnereth" (Num. 34:11), "the sea of Chinneroth" (Josh. 12:3), and "the lake of Gennesaret" (Luke 15:1).  It was actually a large, fresh-water lake, extending about 14 miles in length and varying from about 5 to 8 miles in width.  It is also noted as being 600 feet lower than the Mediterranean Sea, which appears to be about 25 miles to the west of it, and is said to be in the region where some of the most beautiful areas of all Palestine are located.  Abounding in fish, the Sea of Galilee has also long been a good spot for fisherman, as we see in the case of some of the Lord's apostles who at one time had made their living from it.  

It was at this time, in which the Gospel states, that the Lord was "teaching them many things in parables" (Mark 4:2); and the first parable recorded is the parable of "the sower" who "went out to sow" (Matt. 13:3).   All in all, the NT contains 30 of the Lord's parables.   The first use of the word "parables" in the NT is in Matthew 13:3.  

According to the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, the literal Greek word for parable "signifies a placing of two or more objects together, usually for the purpose of comparison.  In this widest sense of the term there is practically no difference between parable and simile."  A simile, of course, is very much like a metaphor; but it is a comparison that begins with the term "like" or "as."  One example of this can be seen in Matthew 13:33.  It states, "He spoke another parable to them, 'The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took, and hid in three pecks of meal, until it was all leavened.'"   So in the case of the Lord's parables, they can be thought of as "earthly stories," which the people of that day could easily relate to, but that which also conveyed a heavenly meaning of spiritual significance and value.  

In Matthew 13:34,35, the Lord gives an explanation for His use of parables.  There actually appears to be several reasons for it:  First of all, it was a fulfillment of the prophecy made concerning this.  Secondly, it was also to reveal things that had been hidden since the foundation of the world.  But, thirdly, not only was it to reveal, parables would also conceal from those who really did not have the proper spiritual interest, as can be seen in Matthew 13:10-15.  This also appears to correspond with the Lord's instruction in Matthew 7:6 to "Do not give what is holy to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces."   Set a pearl before a swine, and it will recognize no value whatsoever in it.   The swine could totally disregard it, stomp it into the mud, where it would never be seen again, and feel no sense of loss in doing that.   So casting pearls before swine would be very unwise.   In the use of the parables, these people who had no regard for the truth would only be hearing an earthly story and not be able to perceive the great spiritual lessons from it.  So the real "pearls" or "gems" of the story would remain hidden to them.

In the parable of the seed and the sower, we are made aware of various needs.  First there is a need for the seed.  For no matter how excellent a farmer might be, no plant could even begin to grow without the needed seed.  The seed, therefore, is seen as having great significance.  For from seeds of vegetation, springs forth vegetation; and what this seed stands for in the parable is of even more important value!  For Christ speaks of it as representing "the word of God" (Luke 8:11) -- and from which can also come life.  For instance, Jesus says, "...the words I have spoken to you are spirit and are life" (Jn. 6:33).  After many had turned from the Lord and were no longer following Him, He asked Peter, "You do not want to go away also, do you?"  Peter then responded by saying, "Lord, to whom shall we go?  You have words of eternal life" (Jn. 6:66-68).  It was also Peter who, some years later, declares, "for you have been born again not of seed which is perishable but imperishable, that is, through the living and enduring word of God" (1 Pet. 1:23).   The Gospel is "the power of God for salvation" (Rom. 1:16).  God's word is the source whereby faith is instilled (Rom. 10:17), and it has the ability to make alive someone who is dead in sin.  

In addition to the need of the pure seed of the gospel, as we see in the Lord's parable, there is also a need for the sower; and that is what every Christian is to also be.  The need to teach others the truth is not only seen in the Bible, but also in our common sense.  For there is no message more important to impart to others than the message of  God's word that can save a soul from eternal torment and redirect that soul to everlasting bliss instead.  In 2 Timothy 2:2, Paul gives this following instruction to Timothy: "And the things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, these entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also."   The Greek word for "men" in this verse is not "aner," which would mean "males exclusively"; rather, it is the Greek word "anthropos," which stands for mankind in general.  Thayer primarily defines it as, "a human being, whether male or female."  So teaching others the truth is what each Christian is to be involved in, though not all in the same capacity.  For since a woman is not to "teach nor usurp authority over the man" (1 Tim. 2:12), then she is not to serve as a gospel preacher over a congregation; but there are still other ways in which she can teach.   

Let us now hear "The Parable of the Seed and the Sower."  Jesus says, "Behold, the sower went out to sow; and as he sowed, some seeds fell beside the road, and the birds came and ate them up.  And others fell upon the rocky places, where they did not have much soil; and immediately they sprang up, because they had no depth of soil.  But when the sun had risen, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away.  And others fell among the thorns, and the thorns came up and choked them out.  And others fell on the good soil, and yielded a crop, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.  He who has ears, let him hear" (Matt. 13:3-9).

In verse 4, Jesus speaks of the seeds that fell beside the road and were eaten by birds instead of being able to grow in the good soil.  The Lord later points out the spiritual meaning of this, by saying, "When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart..." (v. 19).   Mark and Luke refer to this "evil one" as "Satan" and "the devil," respectively.  

How can the seed of God's word be hindered from taking root in one's heart?  In 1 Corinthians 2:14, Paul speaks of the "natural" man who "does not accept the things of the Spirit of God."  Though some have mistakenly interpreted "natural" man to mean "anyone who does not have a direct operation of the Holy Spirit in his life in order to understand God's word," that is not what it means.  The Greek word for "natural" in this verse is translated as "worldly-minded" in Jude 1:19, where it is speaking of those who are "mockers" and "following after their own ungodly lusts" (v. 18).  It then says, "These are the ones who cause divisions, WORLDLY-MINDED, devoid of the Spirit" (v. 19).  So no wonder they have no interest toward understanding God's word.  Paul declares that "the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so" (Rom. 8:7).

Furthermore, it doesn't take a miraculously intervention of the Holy Spirit that men might understand the Scriptures.  For Paul writes, "when you read you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ...."  In 2 Corinthians 1:13, Paul states, "For we write nothing else to you than what you read and understand...."  

Even as Christians, we must be careful, however, that the seed of God's word is developing in our lives by continually submitting to it.  For that is how we receive spiritual nourishment (cf. Jn. 4:34; Matt. 4:4); and without that type of faithful commitment, it is possible to become forgetful hearers who are only deceiving themselves about one's relationship with God (Jms. 1:23-25).   We need to, therefore, take heed to the Bible's warnings: "My son, give attention to my words; Incline your ear to my sayings.  Do not let them depart from your sight; Keep them in the midst of your heart.  For they are life to those who find them, And health to all their whole body.  Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life" (Prov. 4:20-23).   To the Corinthians, Paul spoke of the gospel by which they were saved, "...if you hold fast the word I preached to you, unless you believed in vain" (1 Cor. 15:2).  

Isn't that something?  A person can actually believe "in vain."  If, however, one could be saved by merely giving mental assent toward all that the Bible says, without the need for any obedience, than that kind of "faith" could never be a vain or useless thing -- even when the person commits terrible sins and remains impenitent.  But faith can become vain because "a man is justified by works, and not by faith alone" (Jms. 2:24), and "faith without works is dead" (v. 26).  So faith without obedience is vain or futile to save anyone.  Faith without works is the kind that the demons have, according to James 2:19.  Here James says, "You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder."  Yes, the demons believe, but you'll never find them faithfully pleasing and loving the Lord by obeying Him.  James then goes on to say in the very next verse, "But are you willing to recognize, you foolish fellow, that faith without works is useless?"  And then cites the example of Abraham who was justified by his works, when he offered up his son Isaac upon the altar (v. 21).  By Abraham's obedience, it could then be said that "Abraham believed God" and that "he was called the friend of God" (v. 23).  Jesus also tells His followers, "You are My friends, if you do what I command you" (Jn. 15:14).  So, clearly, obedience must be coupled with our faith.  

In addition, isn't it even worse for the one who knows the right thing to do, but does it not, than for the person who just never knew?  Though both would be lost in the Judgment Day, Peter shows in 2 Peter 2:20-22 that it is worse for the Christian to go back into sin than for the one who had never become a Christian.  He declares: "For if after they have escaped the defilements of the world by the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and are overcome, the last state has become worse for them than the first. For it would be better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn away from the holy commandment delivered to them.  It has happened to them according to the true proverb, 'A DOG RETURNS TO ITS OWN VOMIT,' and, 'A sow, after washing, returns to wallowing in the mire.'"

So we must guard our hearts and make sure the word of the Lord is always a part of us by living according to it, rather than allowing temptation to lead us away from it.  The psalmist truly looked to God's word in this manner.  He says in Psalm 119:11, "Thy word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against Thee."  Would that not be the key?  Yes, we need to also "treasure" or highly esteem God's word, rather than to become indifferent toward it, so that the devil won't be able to take away that word from our hearts (cf. Luke 8:12).

(Concluded in the next edition of The Gospel Observer)


News & Notes

John Crews (Richard and Cheryl's son) is now back home from the hospital, after having his appendix removed.  Let those of us who are Christians be praying for a speedy recovery for him. 

Connie Calloway had to recently be hospitalized, due to not feeling well.  Let us also be remembering her in our prayers. 

Others to be praying for are Peggy Lefort and Geneva Wilson, who both, after healing from their previous illnesses, soon came down with a different kind.

The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation

1) Hear the gospel, for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17;  John 20:30,31).
2) Believe in the deity of Christ (John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins (Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized in water for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21).
6) Continue in the faith; for, if not, salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).

Park Forest

9923 Sunny Cline Dr., Baton Rouge, LA  70817
Sunday services: 9:00 AM (Bible class); 10 AM & 6 PM (worship)
Tuesday: 7 PM (Bible class)
evangelist/editor: Tom Edwards (225) 667-4520
http://ThomasTEdwards.com/go (Gospel Observer website)
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